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Pack a Perfect Lunchbox with Nut-Free Granola Bars

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Remember when we could count on peanut butter as a school lunchbox staple, perfect for even the pickiest little eaters? These days, the once-beloved PB&J sandwich is practically taboo, as a rise in kids’ allergies has prompted many schools to declare nut-free and peanut-free zones. Nut-studded granola bars also fall into the realm of highly suspicious foods, prompting parents to think outside the box when it comes to school-appropriate snacks.

Happily, these Sunflower Seed Butter Granola Bars (see recipe, below) are the perfect solution for school lunches and snacks. They’re just as delicious as store-bought, but free of nuts, peanuts, and all those pesky additives that come with pre-packaged food.

Bonus: They’re eye healthy, too! Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, which studies suggest may help maintain good eyesight. Since sunflower seed butter acts as a binder in these granola bars, they’re packed with all that good vitamin E, which may help reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

As I mentioned in this blueberry pie smoothie recipe, oats (and whole grains in general) can also protect your vision. Like sunflower seeds, they contain a good amount of vitamin E, as well as zinc and niacin, which have also been shown to reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Some studies show that eating whole grains can even slow the progression of vision loss. These granola bars are a 100% whole grain treat you can feel good about packing in your kids’ lunchboxes.

For success with this recipe, make sure to use sunflower seed butter that contains only sunflower seeds and salt, with no added fat or sugar. Not sure what to do with the rest of the sunflower seed butter? Try these no-bake PB&J thumbprint cookies for another great nut-free version of a back-to-school treat that your kids are sure to love.

~ Erin @ Texanerin Baking

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup natural sunflower seed butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 1/3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup crisp rice cereal
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a 9”X13” pan with a piece of parchment paper.

In a medium pan over low heat, mix together the sunflower seed butter, honey, coconut oil, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla extract. Once the honey has melted and is well combined, remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Mix in the rolled oats, crisp rice cereal, and mini chocolate chips.

Pat over the bottom of the prepared pan. Press the mixture down as firmly as you can without crushing the cereal. If you don’t press it down firmly, the bars won’t hold together as well.

Bake for 17 minutes or until lightly and evenly browned. Let cool about 30 minutes and then cut into bars. If you wait too long to cut them, they’ll crumble when cut.

Store in an airtight container up to 1 week or refrigerate for up to 2
weeks. Yields 18 bars.

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